Friday, August 13, 2010

Time to take the ball and go home?

Back in the summer of 2008, when the heady promise of hope and change was still fresh and unspoiled by the realities of political expediency and power, candidate, Barack Obama sat down and answered some questions about immigration issues for the editors of The Sanctuary.

While many of his responses were the kind of predictable boilerplate we've come to expect from those running for office, a quick glance back allows us to see just how little his promises and pronouncements actually meant.

1. Could you please articulate what you think are the most pressing issues for the U.S. immigrant community, at home AND abroad, and how you would hope to address those issues as President?

At home, the immigrant community faces a real challenge from the tension our inability to fix our immigration system has engendered. Abroad, not enough is being done to encourage job creation and economic development and to decrease the pressure to immigrate without authorization to the U.S. in search of work.

2. Do you support comprehensive immigration reform?


3. What policy conditions would comprehensive immigration reform have to meet in order for you to support it? Please be specific.

I fought in the U.S. Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as president. Not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country. And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants. But because we have to finally bring the 12 million undocumented out of the shadows.

We should require them to pay a fine, learn English, abide by the law, and go to the back of the line for citizenship – behind those who came here legally. But we cannot – and should not – deport 12 million people. That would turn American into something we're not; something we don't want to be

Two years out, it's become painfully apparent that reform has been far from a "top priority" for the Obama administration and Democrats in general... But more troubling than the broken campaign promises, is the reality of how this inaction has effected Latino and immigrant communities across the country.

At the time, he claimed he didn't want to "turn America into something we're not; something we don't want to be" ... yet that is exactly what has happened.

Is America supposed to be a place where people are rounded up and detained because of the color of their skin? A place where the citizenship of those born on it's soil is open for debate? A place where masked vigilantes, empowered by local lawn enforcement, are sanctioned to terrorize entire communities like nightriders of the old south? Where local demagogues set up self proclaimed "concentration camps" to detain whole segments of the population? A place where municipalities and states pass Juan Crow laws aimed at driving out and intimidating ethnic minorities?

Yet, this is the current state of affairs under Barack Obama's leadership.


Rather than standing up to the extremists and radical fringe of the far right, he has looked to compromise and appease them. .... perhaps not always in word...but certainly in deed.

He's arrested, detained, and deported more non-criminal undocumented migrants and spent more money on "border enforcement" than any other president in history. .. recently adding an additional 600 million dollars to the already bloated border-security budget.

And for what?

To appease the right-wing extremists who question the very validity of his presidency and now pull the strings of a Republican party aimed at destroying him through obstruction and inaction.?

To save the butts of vulnerable blue-dog democrats who provide his party a majority in name only and work at odds to its core principles in order to preserve their power?

To further the machinations of political hacks like Schumer and Emanuel whose Machiavellian political worldview revolves solely around the acquisition and maintenance of power?

Like another great political orator who promised us a "shinning city on the hill," but forgot to mention that it would be built on a mountain of debt and the broken backs of the poor and working classes, Obama promised hope and change, but neglected to tell us that it wouldn't be for those to whom he promised it.


It's time to take the ball, leave the playground, and let those who've allowed the bullies to rule figure out how to play their game without one.

For far too long Democrats have relied upon being the lesser of two evils to maintain their coalition. As long as Republicans can be counted on to be more racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-labor, greedy and hypocritical, Democrats have had little to do but throw a crumb here or there to their core constituencies to mollify them and keep them in line.

Extremists like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and the rest of the tea-party nutcases, are gleefully paraded out by Democratic operatives to instill fear in their base just as the Republicans rely on other fears to motivate theirs.

We hear it even now as Latino voters become increasingly disenchanted with the Democratic Party. Various operatives tell them, "but look at how much worse it will be for you if you let Republicans take control?" . ... and that is in fact true.... but how much longer can they be asked to withstand being pawns in a political chess game that tears families apart and forces them to live in constant fear.


It's time to play hardball.

Until Congressional Democrats realize that they were returned to power after ten years in the minority in order to fix the mess left behind from Republican rule, and that Obama sits in the Whitehouse because he was supposed to spearhead change ... they deserve no more consideration than their opposition.

"Give us a majority" was their mantra ..."and we will turn this mess around". ...And millions of new voters took to the polls to give them that majority.....and in return they got watered-down healthcare reform, more endless war, and no immigration reform. In fact what they got was more troops on the border and more people criminalized, jailed and deported for simply trying to make a better life.... precisely the same situation that would have occurred five years earlier with HR4437, if not for millions taking to the streets. Yet at the end of the day, Sensenbrenner's enforcement only policies now prevail ...thanks to the current Democratic leadership.


Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer can count heads with the best of them. Let them try to figure out how they hold power without the Latino, immigrant, and pro-migrant vote. Let them decide if holding blue-dog seats in deep red states is worth losing races easily won in blue and purple states with the help of Latinos and immigrant voters. Let them do the math. Let them try to put together a winning electoral map while those who provided the margin of victory in so many crucial races in 2008 boycott elections until some real meaningful change is made.

A few weeks back, while talking to his netroots supporters in Las Vegas, Obama told them to continue to hold him accountable. But holding him accountable is not about writing blogposts and tweets about what he's doing wrong ... it's about votes.

It's about control of Congress....It's about the subpoena power of the majority to tie up an administration in endless investigation. If Republicans gain control of Congress, Obama becomes a lame-duck, one-term president...if Democrats remain in control, he has a chance at greatness if he so chooses.

But to attain that victory he and his party MUST deliver something. They MUST make the hard choices and decisions to insure those who hold the key to re-election have some relief.

No more promises. No more platitudes, No more excuses. The time for action is NOW.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The down payment's been paid, when will the goods to be delivered?

For years, all we've heard from those opposed to immigration and immigration reform is that until the government could prove that it was "serious" about border security and enforcement, no meaningful discussion of immigration reform was going to take place. The mantra of "we can't reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can't control immigration unless we control our borders" has been the guiding principle behind every obstructionist attempt to derail systematic reform. And attempts to appease restrictionists, by adopting "enforcement first" policies" have become the accepted framework from which all discussions were forced to start.

But most of those working for positive change have known all along that "enforcement first" is just a catch-22. It's an ever-moving target that was never intended to be reached. The ultimate goal of those opposed to reform has never been to "control" immigration...but rather to end it.

Yet despite these obvious facts, both the Bush and Obama administrations dived head first into the enforcement waters.

The last few years have been marked by hugely escalating enforcement budgets, increased apprehension, deportation and detention, increased use of local law enforcement, raids, and employer audits.

Programs like "Operation Streamline", "Secure Communities", "287G", "Operation Community Shield", and "Rapid REPEAT", (to name a few) have all been ramped up to locate, and remove the undocumented population. And while the human suffering caused by these and other programs has been immeasurable, no one can deny their effect on both illegal entry and presence.

So the question now becomes; At what point can we say enough is enough?

At what point will the forces that demand strict enforcement before any discussion of reform can begin, be content? Immigrant communities across this nation have paid the price, they've made their down payment on reform ...when do they finally see something in return?

A couple of new studies demonstrate just how effective and massive these programs and operations have become. Both examining just one aspect of enforcement ...federal prosecutions for immigration related crimes ... which have increased 459% in the last ten years.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) and Warren Institute at the University of California at Berkeley recently released reports highlighting the dramatic increase in federal immigration prosecutions and the link to Operation Streamline, a DHS program which mandates federal criminal prosecution of all persons caught crossing the border unlawfully.

The Warren Institute report highlights the impact of Operation Streamline on immigration enforcement and the TRAC report shows that federal immigration prosecutions rose to record levels during fiscal year 2009 and how a shift in priorities has created the largest number of federal immigration prosecutions of non-violent border crossers ever.

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first nine months of FY 2009 the government reported 67,994 new immigration prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 90,659 for this fiscal year. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate is up 14.1 percent over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 79,431.

Number Year-to-date67,994
Percent Change from previous year14.1
Percent Change from 5 years ago139
Percent Change from 10 years ago459
Percent Change from 20 years ago973

The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with immigration-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Compared to five years ago when there were 37,884, the estimate of FY 2009 prosecutions of this type is up 139 percent. Prosecutions over the past year are much higher than they were ten years ago. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are up 459 percent from the level of 16,219 reported in 1999 and up 973 percent from the level of 8,448 reported in 1989.

While the TRAK report looked at record increase in all federal immigration prosecutions, the Warren Institute looked at the effect of just one Operation along the US/ Mexico border: Operation Streamline.

The Department of Homeland Security(DHS) began implementing OperationStreamline along the U.S.-Mexico border in2005. The program has fundamentally transformed DHS’s border enforcement practices. Before Operation Streamline began, DHSBorder Patrol agents voluntarily returned first-time border crossers to their home countries or detained them and formally removed them from the United States through the civil immigration system. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reserved criminal prosecution for migrants with criminal records and for those who made repeated attempts to cross the border. Operation Streamline removed that prosecutorial discretion, requiring the criminal prosecution of all undocumented border crossers, regardless of their history.

Operation Streamline has generated unprecedented caseloads in eight of the eleven federal district courts along the border, straining the resources of judges, U.S. attorneys, defense attorneys, U.S. Marshals, and court personnel. The program’s voluminous prosecutions have forced many courts to cut procedural corners. Magistrate judges conduct en masse hearings, during which as many as 80 defendants plead guilty at a time, depriving migrants of due process. Indeed, in December 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Operation Streamline’s en masse plea hearings in Tucson, Arizona violate federal law.By focusing court and law enforcement resources on the prosecution of first-time entrants, Operation Streamline also diverts attention away from fighting drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other crimes that create border violence
Assembly-Line Justice: A Review of Operation Streamline

  • Immigration prosecutions make up 54 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions. The most prosecuted federal immigration crimes in FY 2009 were for immigrants caught entering the United States at an improper time or place, totaling approximately 40,000. Between 2002 and 2008, prosecutions for first time illegal entry in border district courts increased 330% from 12,411 to 53,697

  • Illegal reentry of a deported alien accounted for nearly 22,000 prosecutions in FY 2009.

  • In contrast, potential smuggling charges were brought less frequently. TRAC found 2,980 prosecutions for bringing in and harboring certain aliens, and 106 prosecutions for aiding and abetting an illegal entry.

  • 85% of the prosecutions originated with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accounted for 13% of the prosecutions.

  • Before 2005, CBP voluntarily returned first time border crossers or formally removed them through the civil system. Federal prosecutions were used almost exclusively for individuals with previous criminal records or repeat crossers. Operation Streamline --instituted in Del Rio, Texas in 2005 and later expanded to other areas -- shifted this practice by eliminating prosecutorial discretion and requiring that all unlawful border crossers be prosecuted in federal criminal court and imprisoned if convicted, regardless of their immigration history.15 Those who are caught entering the U.S. illegally for the first time are prosecuted for misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

  • Most Operation Streamline defendants are migrants from Mexico or Central America who have no prior criminal convictions and who have attempted to cross the border in search of work or to reunite with family in the United States.

  • The link between Operation Streamline and federal prosecution rates can be seen in the judicial districts near these enforcement zones. The Southern District of Texas prosecutes the most immigration crimes, with 23,000 in FY 2009, up 22.1% from FY 2008.1819 The District of Arizona was second with 16,477, up 39.7% from FY 2008.

If we add the fact that President Obama's proposed budget for 2011 includes additional increases in spending along the border and for interior enforcement it becomes obvious that the enforcement juggernaut has far from reached it's end.

So we must now ask ourselves ... when in fact will the border ever be "secure" enough?

We have long heard about the failures of 1986 and how if only the laws were enforced, then we could start to look at reforming the dysfunctional and broken system that only feeds the growing prison-industrial complex.

Well, the laws have been enforced.

There's been a nearly 1000% increase in immigration prosecutions since 1990. In 2009 alone, the U.S. government had held over 440,000 people in immigration custody – more than triple the number of people in detention just ten years ago - and deported 387,000 immigrant workers, the highest recorded number in U.S. history.

So, how much longer are the "sins" of 1986 to hang over everyone's heads? Is there some secret magic number that needs to be reached? Is it a 2000% or 3000% increase in prosecutions? One Million in detention or deported?

How large a price must be paid by immigrant communities before there is a remedy? How many more mothers must be separated from their children? How many families torn apart? Communities terrorized? How many more lives destroyed and futures taken away?

When will the down payment paid in suffering and sorrow be acknowledge ... and the promise of reform finally be honored.?

I think it's fair to say ...NOW!!!!!!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Raw Politics of Immigration Reform Should Lead to Legislation

There are numerous reasons why it would be wise for Washington to address the nation&'s failed immigration policies sooner rather than later and finally fix a system that no one on either end of the political spectrum believes is either functioning properly or serving the best interests of the people . Even though studies show that reforming immigration would be a boost to the economy at a time when it could surely use one, and human rights issues make reforming the system a moral imperative, many still believe that it's an issue too politically hot to handle.

Since nothing yet has provided the requisite motivation to those in Washington to move forward and tackle reform, it&'s time to start to look at it through a prism they can understand: Pure Machiavellian political calculation.

As has been rightly pointed out, reform cannot be a one party affair, and to get it accomplished there will have to be some reaching across the aisle and bipartisan compromise. Yet, given the current polarization in Washington, accomplishing such a task might seem to be impossible ... until of course we look at the alternatives.

It's quite obvious at this point that the American electorate is furious, with discontent across the political spectrum from left to right ... and more importantly the middle.

Confidence in Washington is approaching record lows with few having faith in elected officials to fix the serious problems facing the nation. 60% believe that the country's heading in the wrong direction. The elation of 2008 that a new era of change was upon us, and that the gridlock and partisan politics of the past might finally give way to effective governance, has quickly given way to distrust and cynicism.

Those from both parties now face an angry public more intent than ever to throw the bums out of office.

On the right, all but the most hard-core reactionary conservatives face challenges from the far-right extremes of their party. In Florida, one-time party favorite, Charlie Crist, looks like toast with teabagger Marco Rubio crushing him in the polls. Former standard bearer, John McCain, daily tries to distance himself from every past position he's ever held in hopes of warding off primary defeat. In NY23 the pitchfork and torch crowd lunched a successful coup, driving out the party favorite, ultimately handing the election to the opposition.

Fueled by the vitriolic rants of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, and living in an information isolation-bubble created by the FOX News noise machine, the angry mob has become emboldened and threatens to tear their party apart in a frenzy of fratricide.

On the left, the inability of the administration and its Congressional allies to deliver on their promise to usher in a new era in Washington has had a different effect. While the right-wing base is energized, the historic coalition that Obama built of youth, ethnic voters, and independents is withering away due to ambivalence and disillusion.

As we saw in NJ, VA, and most recently in MA, the Obama coalition simply failed to show up at the polls. And those that did were the disenchanted independents still looking for change who thought they'd find it in a pick-up truck driving, faux-populist, "independent Republican."

But as much as both parties are having problems with their respective bases, it's the magic 40+% unaffiliated voters who now create the most problems for both.

They're sick and tired of the partisan bickering, political posturing, and gridlock that prevail in Washington.

They're scared. They see a faltering economy, endless wars, high unemployment and an uncertain future, and they want something done.

They watched the protracted political sausage making that mired down the health care debate, the convoluted economics of the stimulus bill, and the daily theater of the absurd as obstructionist Republicans did everything in their power to derail an Obama presidency ... and they're fed up.

They want to clean house, and few incumbents will be safe from their wrath.

Realizing this, both parties have telegraphed their electoral strategies.

Republicans will attempt to run as outsiders, trying to convince voters that somehow Washington careerists are in fact, fresh faces with new ideas, all along stalling and trying their damnedest to prevent anything from getting accomplished that might make Obama look good.

The Democrats, with Obama in the lead, will hammer away on those very same stall tactics and try to lay the blame for all the gridlock and partisan rancor in Washington at the Republican's feet.

But both these plans contain Achilles heels that could doom them to failure.

As a new poll just released by non-partisan independent pollster Research 2000 of over 2,000 self-identified Republicans shows, the base has moved so far to the extreme they could become toxic for incumbents in all but the reddest of red states. Particularly given Obama's still very high personal popularity.

  • 63% think Obama is a socialist
  • only 42% believe he was born in US
  • 39% want Obama impeached.
  • 53% think Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama
  • 23% want to secede from US
  • 24% believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win
  • 31% believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people
  • 73% think gay men and women shouldn't be allowed to teach in public schools
  • 31% want contraceptives outlawed

In order to paint themselves as outsiders, Republicans, who make up only 22.5% the electorate, will be forced to embrace those in their party who have already firmly staked out that ground ... the teabaggers and birthers who flocked to last summers town halls to "take their country back."

Having to cater to this constituency not only to ward off primary challenges or raise funds, but to appear "mavericky" enough, Republicans run the risk of alienating the independents and moderates essential to winning general elections. In many ways, in order to remain viable in general elections dominated by centrist independents, Republicans will need to distance themselves from what now appears to be the public face of their party.

A recent Gallup poll shows just how risky catering to the base could be. It's still a very blue country:

Overall, 49% of Americans in 2009 identified as Democrats or said they were independent but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 41% identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents In total, 23 states plus the District of Columbia can be classified as solidly Democratic, with a 10 percentage-point or greater advantage in party affiliation in favor of the Democrats. This includes most of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, most of the Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Coast.

Another 10 states can be considered Democratic leaning, in which the state's Democratic supporters outnumber Republican supporters by at least 5 percentage points but less than 10 points. These are Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, and Tennessee.

Four states are solidly Republican, with a better than 10-point advantage in Republican affiliation -- Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, and Idaho. Alabama qualifies as the lone Republican-leaning state, with a 6-point advantage in Republican affiliation.

That leaves 12 states that are competitive, with less than a 5-point advantage for either party. Among these 13 states, 6 tilt in a Republican direction: Montana, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, North Dakota, and Kansas. Six tilt toward the Democratic Party: Georgia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.


Republicans would need to replicate their "Massachusetts Miracle" across the electoral map in order to succeed … something far easier to crow about, than do.

For Democrats, the "blame it all on the Republicans" strategy is risky also. Congressional Democrats' approval ratings are in the toilet, only slightly higher than the Republicans:


This low standing in most part due to their perceived inability to get anything accomplished and getting mired down in the toxic partisan bickering that has marked this Congress.

Attempting now to point fingers at the opposition is a dicey proposition.

With all his substantial personal charms and political skills, even Obama would be walking the fine line between criticizing partisanship and engaging in it… A risky move even in a far less volatile political climate.

It's even riskier when attempted by far less well-liked and politically talented Democrats who run the risk of sounding like they're just making shrill excuses for their bad behavior.

But perhaps both parties would be better served if they actually just did the people's bidding and found a way to get something done. It would serve them well to roll up their sleeves and put partisan political gamesmanship aside long enough to get at least one piece of major legislation passed this session. It would be in both their political best interests.

Republican's would be able to defuse Democratic attacks about being obstructionists and have some claim to the middle at a time when the extreme base of the party appears to be anything but, and Democrats would prove they can get something done.

It's for this reason that the time to address immigration reform has come.

  • It's the kind of "tough issue" that polls have constantly shown the American people want tackled.
  • It has the support of a broad coalition that includes labor, business, and faith-based organizations.
  • Good arguments have be made for the economic benefits of enacting reform
  • The demographics work…neither party can survive long-term without the Latino and New American vote
  • Polling shows the majority of Americans favor reform
  • It's received bi-partisan support in the past
  • Restrictionist campaigns have consistently failed at the polls

From a purely political point of view this seems to be a no-brainer.






1. Fact Sheet: How Immigration Reform Would Help the Economy
by the Center for American Progress

A fact sheet summarizing recent research on the benefits of legalization.

2. “The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform”
By Raul Hinojosa for the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center

This report finds that comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables a future flow of legal workers would result in a large economic benefit—a cumulative $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. In stark contrast, a deportation-only policy would result in a loss of $2.6 trillion in GDP over 10 years.

3. Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform
by Peter B. Dixon and Maureen T. Rimmer for the CATO Institute

A report which finds that legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households. It would also allow immigrants to have higher productivity and create more openings for Americans in higherskilled occupations. The positive impact for U.S. households of legalization under an optimal visa tax would be 1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion. 

4. The Economics of Immigration Reform: Legalizing Undocumented Workers a Key to Economic Recovery
by the Immigration Policy Center

April 2009 analysis of how legalization would protect our workers, raise wages, and get our economy moving again.

5. Policy Brief: New Immigration Reform Bill Supports America’s Middle Class
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

A Legislative Analysis of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009(H.R. 4321) sponsored by Representative Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and 92other co-sponsors

6. The Labor Movement’s Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
AFL-CIO and Change to Win

Announced in April 2009, this is the labor movements unified framework for comprehensive immigration reform.  This framework is a critical sign of support for the Administration and Congress to address immigration reform -- and to ensure that it remains a priority on the legislative calendar. It is also an important sign that immigration reform is an important part of economic recovery.

7. Loving Thy Neighbor: Immigration Reform and Communities of Faith
by Sam Fulwood III for the Center for American Progress

This report documents how  a wide range of faith groups are showing a new, unexpected, and grassroots-led social activism that’s rooted in theological and moral ground. While loud and shrill anti-immigrant voices dominate much of the media attention regarding immigrants and especially the undocumented, faith community activists are caring and praying in the shadows of public attention.

8. The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties
By Anita Khashu for the Police Executive Research Foundation

While this report focuses on and provides critique of the role of local police and immigration enforcement, one of the major findings is the need for enactment of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.




Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's talk future flows

The most common explanation that comes from the right for the current failure of the immigration system is of course lack of enforcement. They claim the problem would be easily solved if only we spent more time, money, and effort locking up or deporting unauthorized immigrants, or patrolling thousands of miles of border to keep them out. They couple this with an argument against providing a normalization of status for 12 million undocumented immigrants based the failure of the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

They have taken these two ideas and tied them into nice package to form the foundation of their narrative in opposition to immigration reform. A narrative that essentially says; "You can't reform immigration unless the borders are totally secure...and you can't have an 'amnesty' because we tried that before and it only opened the floodgates to more 'illegal' immigration by rewarding lawbreakers."

This simple narrative has allowed them dominate debate and set the parameters of how CIR has been crafted in all past attempts, with a heavy reliance on enforcement and border security, restrictive guest worker programs, and in return, some limited normalization of status for some the undocumented population.

We see it's influence even in the framing used by Democrats when addressing the issue. Such as President Obama's statement in the SOTU:

"And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

The problem for reformers is that, although based on faulty logic and misinformation, the narrative is compelling, easily understood, and unfortunately accepted by not only large swaths of the American public, but by those on both sides of the aisle in Washington.

It doesn't matter that border security and enforcement measures have grown exponentially since the mid nineties with no resulting decline in unauthorized entry, and that enforcement expenditures today are at their highest level in history. Or that deportations and detentions are at record levels. Or that it was not until the recent economic meltdown that we saw any decline in unauthorized migration.

It also doesn't matter that the true reason for the failure of IRCA was that it made absolutely no provisions or plans on how to address "future flow" ... it had no systems or mechanism in place to determine, regulate, or control, the future level of immigration going forward.

The determination of the number of the immigrants that are legally allowed to enter the country each year was left to politicians (and their lobbyist friends) who set quotas, and to low-level bureaucrats who administer them. Once enacted, these quotas were rarely revisited or adjusted in the last 24 years to reflect economic realities or other needs.

The result of this lack of foresight, and unwillingness to address the issue of regulating future flow, led to a defacto "free market" for immigrant labor with flows determined by market forces and greed.

It has left millions of needed workers, who should have had a legal path to entry if the system was in fact responsive to economic needs, in a state of limbo whereby they are easily exploited and marginalized.

But at the present time the opposition narrative still trumps the truth ... it makes for better sound bites and is easily digested without the need for too much thought or analysis.

But, if we are to enact truly meaningful and lasting reform we must find a way to offer up solutions and narratives that can be just as easily packaged and resonate not only with the left and in pro-migrant circles...but also with the middle.

We must offer up an alternate solution that is not only humane and practical, but also "common sense."

The key to both fixing to our broken system, and creating a narrative by which to win support for reform, lies in formulating an effective and practical plan for addressing future flow. One that truly addresses both domestic labor needs and the global forces that drive migration. One that is responsive to real world situations and events with enough flexibility to be adjusted to changing circumstances.

Such a plan would allow us to not only insure that our reform measures would in fact have long lasting positive effects, but also supply us with an alternative narrative base on sound principles, and built on foundation of factual realities, that could counter the opposition's enforcement only positions.

We must be able to offer up a plan to the American people that says we have a practical solution that will guarantee that our immigration system will be responsive to our economic and social needs. It will supply needed workers when economic conditions warrant, it will keep families together, it will supply ample opportunity for innovation and education to keep us competitive in a global economy, and provide refuge to those most in need.

But most of all it will flexible and fluid, able to respond to shifting needs and circumstances. It will not be based on the wants or needs of special interests or those wishing to exploit the system, but rather on what is in the best interest of the American people and those looking to make a better life.

We must be able to assure the American people that a functioning and responsive immigration system will end the cycle of unregulated and uncontrolled migration.

It will end the inequities and injustice inherent in "market driven," Laissez-faire, systems that look only to make profits at the expense of people. That controlling the flow of immigration based on rational needs is far more effective than trying to control it through tough enforcement of the rules of an already dysfunctional system.

Currently, labor and big business are in the process of hashing out a compromise on just how they would like to see future flows handled:

.... The AFL-CIO's Ramirez indicated that she and other labor leaders are trying to reach a compromise with business representatives on a complicated section of the bill that would set guidelines to regulate the use of migrant workers on either a temporary or permanent basis. Labor organizations have supported a plan for a new Presidential commission to help establish criteria and calculate labor needs. Business groups have said that they would not accept a commission that could be politicized and not suitably responsive to "market forces." This issue may seem esoteric, but as legislative efforts to enact immigration reform move haltingly along, the ability of labor and business to agree on the fundamentals of migrant worker programs could make the difference between a viable bill and yet another failed effort to fix the broken system. ...

Labor's Ramirez suggested that the commission proposal would not be a deal breaker. "In terms of creating a system--let's put the word 'commission' aside--that contemplates economic need and makes decisions on visas based on demonstrated need, that's attractive to us both [business and labor]. So I think there is lots of agreement on how to move forward." Ramirez said that labor would want to insist that migrant workers involved in "future flows" be assured worker protections and rights. Labor is also pushing to make sure that recruiters who bring in foreign workers are better regulated. But she made it clear that the commission idea was more of a subject for negotiation than a key demand. "It's about crafting a system," she said, "not calling it a 'commission.'"

Jeffrey Kaye-HuffingtonPost

We can only hope that as labor and business leaders meet behind close doors to decide the fate of millions and the future of our immigration system and economic security, they can go beyond their usual partisanship and parochial concerns, and instead carefully craft a system that takes into account what will ultimately be best for those most effected....and what is best for all our futures.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Schumer reaches out to Lou Dobbs on immigration. This is insanity.

While everyone in Washington has been banging heads over health care reform, the economy and jobs, quietly behind the scenes Democrats have been working on attacking another hot button issue...immigration reform. And while rumors of whether reform has any chance of seeing the light of day abound, coalitions are being built, political alliances formed, and legislative agendas explored.

Leading the push in the Senate, where the powers that be have decided the battle should begin, is Chuck Schumer. In recent months he's called together leaders from all the stakeholders in the debate to get a lay of the land. Labor, business, immigrant rights activists, representatives of faith organizations ... all have weighed in and expressed their wants and concerns.

Schumer's also been looking for a couple of "republican champions" to help him nurse the bill through the Senate. With McCain abdicating his previous leadership role, due in no small part to his wish to save his political hide in what could be a very tenacious battle for re-election, all eyes have turned to McCain fan-boy, Lindsey Graham.

Obviously, Schumer's looking to put together a big tent.

But apparently that "big tent" just got a little bigger ...ridiculously bigger

According to The Hill, Schumer has been reaching out to none other than the recently disgraced CNN blowhard, Lou Dobbs, to see if he might be a possible spokesman for reform.

Senate Democrats have reached out to former CNN anchor and prominent illegal-immigration opponent Lou Dobbs in an effort to build broad bipartisan support for immigration reform.

Winning the support of Dobbs, who became a prominent critic of illegal immigration and proposals to grant amnesty to illegal workers, could provide a significant boost to reform efforts.

... Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is spearheading the Democrats’ effort to put together a comprehensive reform bill, met with Dobbs on Wednesday.

“We’re meeting with all different kinds of groups, trying to get everybody together to come out for one bill,” Schumer said.

The rationale behind this seemingly impossible occurrence:

Schumer noted that Dobbs, who left CNN in November, is 'changing his views on immigration

Let me get this straight. Dobbs has had some sort of road to Damascus moment and is no longer the poster boy for every racist, anti-immigrant knuckle dragger in American...and is now a credible spokesman FOR immigration reform?

All those years of brown-bashing, cozying up to the likes of minutemen, Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, or being a virtual megaphone for the Tanton-run hate groups like FAIR and CIS ... all of that was some sort of dream sequence that never really happened?

Sorry, but I've got all the you-tubes and transcripts to prove otherwise.

I know that principles in Washington are fluid and move with the ebb and flow of political expediency.... and that memories tend to be no longer than the last election cycle.

But Chuck...you have got to be kidding

Who in the world do you think is ever going to even buy this one.

Certainly not those who favor reform, who know Dobbs for what he is and hold him in as much regard as they do Joe Arpaio. Who do you think actually started those campaigns, and signed those petitions, and protested outside of CNN until they finally fired the cabro viejo?

Or what about his "base"?

Do you actually believe that his hardcore following, who for years cheered on his brown-bashing, with claims of leprosy ridden immigrants, Reconquista, and conspiracy theories about The North American Union, are now going to have a change of heart and follow Dobbs' lead. I realize that you believe he's had an epiphany like St Paul ...but are we to believe is he now Moses as well? Do you expect him to lead his flock out of the wilderness?

While the President lectures the nation on the need to live up to our principles.... behind closed doors in Washington, people like Schumer make deals, literally with the devil. But the lives he bargains with and the souls he condemns are not his own...but rather those of the millions who suffer the greatest burden of this governments inability to function on any level that goes beyond controlling raw political and economic power.

So go ahead Chuck. Make your deals. Craft your compromises. Get in bed with anyone, no matter how vile.. But don't count on cheering throngs screaming "sí se puede" next time around. Because instead I think your going to hear..."oh no you can't"


Any idea on how much longer that check might be in the mail?

Every day my inbox and Twitter account overflows with messages from DC types, pro-reform movers and shakers, and recently, netroots muckamucks, letting me know that immigration reform is gaining political momentum and a new legislative cycle is just around the corner.

Invitations to listen to conference calls and panel discussions flow in at a steady stream. Links to press releases, policy pieces, political polls and analysis, pile up one after the next.

Each proclaiming that this DC organization, or that politician, has some monumental news about the impending Immigration Reform legislation, or information on some critical action item that will directly effect its outcome.

If I was a gullible soul, naïve or unaccustomed to standards by which DC types or new media mavens operate, I'd probably buy into all this smoke and mirror cheerleading ... it seems on its face to make perfect sense.

I mean, com'on, it's not like everyone didn't work their asses off to change the power structure in Washington so we could have the Change We Can Believe In™.

It’s not like Señor Sí Se Puede didn't promise time and time again, prior to his election, that he wouldn't forget the millions of new voters who signed on to the Yes We Can™ juggernaut and honor his pledge to take up reform in his first year in office.

Over the last few days these messages started to reach a frenzied peak.

Those in the know had positive word that Obama would make an important statement about immigration reform in his SOTU and revitalize the movement. He would clearly call on congress to finally move on legislation and allow him to keep his promise.

So with baited breath I awaited the President's remarks last night to hear his clarion call to Congress finally take up immigration reform.

And finally there it was …. What we have all been waiting so long to hear him say….

" And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -– to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

With 7446 words …over an hours worth of brilliant Obama oratory …. And all he managed to squeeze in was a single sentence of the same old boilerplate, regurgitated stump-speech talking points, we've been hearing for over three years now.

Thanks Barry ….

Guess the check is still in the mail on that one.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We've got to do better than this

Just some food for thought before Obama's SOTU, and hopefully a renewed push for CIR starting in the Senate by Shummer and Graham

While it's a good sign to see Progressives, Labor, Faith-based organizations and so many more signing on to CIR. There's seems to be a disconnect between the current messaging and framing and what I think might be needed to finally gain the kind of support CIR will really need to get through the legislative process in one piece (as opposed to what's happened w/ health care)..and more importantly, accepted by the vast majority of Americans.

In order to enact really meaningful and practical reform, it is not the far-right, teabaggers, or groups like FAIR or Allipac that will determine the fate of reform this time around ...but rather "the middle."

And while it's great that polling claims there is pretty strong support for some kind of reform, I think all must admit that both the framing of the poll questions and specifics of what exactly that reform will look like are presently the only determining factors that set apart the polling numbers presented by pro-reform orgs, from those of the anti-immigration advocates.

The Immigration Policy Center posted a very good diary up at Daily Kos today....But if you read through the comments you'll notice that there is a lot of sentiment opposed to reform.

And it's not the usual "what part of illegal, don't you understand" bullshit we've become accustomed to, but rather some serious questioning of the economic issues around CIR.

And while many of the comments are based on misconceptions or anecdotal evidence, they go to show just how much work there remains in framing this issue out for the middle.

While it's all well and good to talk about the concepts of Peri's "complementary workers' and "imperfect substitutes" in the workforce to explain why foreign workers don't really take US jobs during times of high unemployment, ... or how the tax benefits of normalizing the status of undocumented workers far outweighs the liabilities....or how bringing the undocumented into the legitimate workforce raises the standards of all workers......These are all concepts based in academia, the theoretical, or conceptual. They are not visceral. ...some in fact are counter intuitive. And to simply restate them and repeat them does not seem to be a strategy that will have long term benefit.

To tell those commentors that they simply don't grasp labor-economic, or their views are simplistic, is not the way the middle is going to be won. You can't talk down to them. To quote polls that claim people support reform or studies that prove that their economic ideas (or preconceptions) are wrong only further alienates them and makes them dig in.

To win the middle the framing needs to become more clear.

We must be able to counter arguments like these (from the IPC diary at DKos) with more than just statistics and alternative studies. We must have a better narrative. Not only for why reform is the morally right thing to do...but why it's in the best interests of all those living in this country.

If they are legalized most will be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits which will count against any taxes they do pay

(as to)your point about "interchangeability."

But that's no longer true.

People with multiple college degrees are willing to take jobs cleaning houses and picking produce because that's all they can find. They will take jobs for which they are overqualified because otherwise they would continue to be unemployed.

It might be "unrealistic," but it's happening.

Your point might hold up in normal times, or what was considered normal in the past, but there are too many people casting about for ANY job for it to be valid now.

People in lower paying jobs qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit which can reduce your income tax liability to zero and on top of that give you up to around 4000 in free money (if you have children). The EITC free money counts against SS tax paid in my book. If we legalize illegal immigrants they will be eligible for the EITC.

People on the left argue for a social welfare state in part because poor people need services, right? That basically means that the poorest among us are going to be given more in services (health care, school funds, rent supplements) then they pay in taxes, right? I think we would all agree that most people that come here from Mexico are low income and unskilled (lots don't even have a high school education), right? Put all of this together and basically it means that once they are naturalized as citizens the vast majority will become net beneficiaries of funds from the treasury. So basically on average any taxes paid will be less then funds provided to them in government services. Mass immigration of unskilled people and a modern social welfare state are simply not compatible; it will make us poorer per capita not richer.

These are the kind of sentiments that kill will CIR, not the racist rants the far-right, or the idiocy of the tea baggers. It will be the economic angst of the middle that puts the nail in the coffin this time.

Unless those in the pro-reform movement start to read the writing on the wall more clearly, and start to figure out how to frame this issue out beyond spouting public opinion polls, demographic and voting statistics or economic studies, it will be a long uphill battle to win reform. And I fear that the compromises necessary to win that reform may make the victory a sour pill to swallow at the end of the day.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Krikorian: Problem with Haiti- slavery ended too soon

Over the past ten days much has been written about Haiti's troubled past, the ramifications and causes of it's crushing poverty and political instability, and the historical role many nations have played in perpetuating it's suffering.

Of course coupled with these lessons in colonial, and post-colonial geo-political history have been the expected wingnut assertions like those of Pat Robinson about Haiti's "pack with the devil"

But now, thanks to Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right "think tank" opposed to immigration, we get this little tidbit of neo-colonial/white-man's burden analysis of why Haiti remains the poorest nation in the hemisphere:

From NRO:

Why isn't Haiti like Jamaica or Barbados? Those places certainly have their problems, but they're not dystopian like Haiti.....

My guess is that Haiti's so screwed up because it wasn't colonized long enough. The ancestors of today's Haitians, like elsewhere in the Caribbean, experienced the dislocation of de-tribalization, which disrupted the natural ties of family and clan and ethnicity. They also suffered the brutality of sugar-plantation slavery, which was so deadly that the majority of slaves at the time of independence were African-born, because their predecessors hadn't lived long enough to reproduce.

But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn't stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers.

According to Krikorian, if only the pesky Haitians had abandoned their fight for freedom (as the only successful slave revolt and revolution in history) and remained under the whip for another 40 years like their counterparts in other former slave colonies, they would have had time to absorb the greater wisdom and culture of their oppressors, and their nation wouldn't be the basket case of the western hemisphere it is today.

No mention made of the harsh reparations the ex-slaves were forced to pay their former masters (equal to $21 billion in today’s dollars) that took from 1825 to 1947 pay and crippled Haiti's economy for more than a century. No acknowledgement that a successful slave revolt and revolution of colonial peoples of color in the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century was more frightening to the ruling powers of the time than any Taliban or Al Qaeda could ever be today, and all efforts were made to isolate the tiny nation in order prevent the spread of revolt and revolution to the rest of the occupied world. No insight into the years of foreign interference, domination, and manipulation of the Haitian political system by European and US government and corporate interests.

Nope... The Hatians, like their black brothers and sisters in certain areas of deep dark Africa, just never managed to absorb the wisdom and knowledge of their white colonial benefactors according to Krikorian.

But, thankfully, Mr. Krikorian offers up a solution to this lack of proper schooling of the poor, ignorant Haitian people in the white mans ways.... return them back to paternalistic colonial control until such time as they can make it on their own.

So what can we do about it? As much as we'd like to go back to ignoring the place, we can't, if for no other reason than a continually dysfunctional Haiti means boat people in Miami.....

But if Haiti's problem is a stunted, dysfunctional culture caused by an interrupted process of colonial development, then it follows that a solution would be to resume colonialism...

...but, as we've found in Iraq, Americans just don't do colonies very well. In fact, the time of conventional colonization is past — it's not just that the Haitians value their independence, nominal though it might be; it's that there's no developed nation who'd want to bother.

Instead, Haiti needs to become a like U.N. Trust Territory, essentially putting it into receivership. Unlike past examples, Haiti wouldn't be administered by a single nation but rather collectively, perhaps by the OAS, since the U.N. is almost as feckless as Haiti itself. This is the de facto situation now, with the complete absence of national government, but by formalizing it, the needed "intrusive paternalism" might be more likely.

As ridiculous as Krikorian's assertions are, his mere spouting off of this kind of archaic, white-mans-burden drivel, raises one very serious question:

Why is this nut, and the organization he runs, still viewed as in any way credible on any issue.

Why is he called before Congress to testify as an expert witness on anything. Why are his groups "studies" and statements taken at all seriously by anyone in both the media or government.

How much longer will it be, and how many times must we listen to his lies, racism, and distortions before he and the rest of the puppets in the Tanton network of anti-immigration front groups are finally discredited and relegated to the dustbin of history, just like his paternalistic, colonial view of the world.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whining starts about lack of guest worker program in Gutierrez bill

Like dogs salivating to the sound of a dinner bell, it didn’t take long for the forces of the status quo to weigh in on the new immigration bill unveiled yesterday by Rep. Luis Gutierrez(D-IL) with their usual reflexive reactions

Of course, from the wingnutosphere we got the usual "amnesty" canard:

On Capitol Hill, the bill was declared dead on arrival by some Republicans — and, privately, by some Democrats — and denounced as impractical and amounting to amnesty for people who had entered the country illegally. Two previous Congressional efforts to revamp immigration laws in the Bush years failed largely because of similar objections.

Representative Brian Bilbray, a California Republican who heads the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said the bill would only generate a new wave of migrants to compete with Americans for jobs at a time of 10 percent unemployment.


As far as Bilbray goes, we’ve come to expect little more from the former chief lobbyist for the hate-group, Federation for American Immigration Reform. It's pretty safe to assume that FAIR, NumbersUSA, The Congressional Immigration Caucus and the whole of the wingnut media machine will be crying "shamnesty, shamnesty" before this time tomorrow. It's a well-worn and dog-eared page from the right-wing playbook.

But unlike in past immigration battles, this one has the corporatist wings of both parties with their panties in a wad also. In large part due to the fact that Rep Gutierrez had the nerve to introduce a "comprehensive immigration bill" without a guest worker program…(like "comprehensive" is somehow synonymous with exploitable, temporary, indentured servants)

Democrats in the Senate who would steer an immigration overhaul through that chamber generally welcomed Mr. Gutierrez’s bill, though aides said it was too liberal to win passage as written.

The bill lacks a broad program championed by many Republicans, as well as Democrats including Mr. Obama, to address future labor demands and to better control the flow of immigration. To do that, they have advocated a program under which people could work only temporarily in the United States and then return home. Instead, the bill calls for a federal commission to study the best approach for the “future flows of workers.”

“In order for immigration reform to be effective, it needs to be comprehensive,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who collaborated with Mr. Gutierrez on previous immigration bills but not this one. “Any bill without a temporary worker program is simply not comprehensive.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is working with some Republicans on a separate bill that he has said could be ready whenever Mr. Obama asked for it..

Despite the protestations of Mr Flake, (whose most memorable contribution to the reform debate thus far was the failed STRIVE act of 2007 with it's triggers, touchbacks and flaming hoops of fire through which to jump before allowing the undocumented to normalize status), temporary workers are not the ONLY way to "address future labor demands and to better control the flow of immigration".

In fact if he (or the NYT reporter who wrote this article, for that matter) actually read the bill proposed by Rep Gutierrez, he would have seen it contained perhaps the most effective method to address both labor demands and future immigration flow we've seen in any of the myriad of immigration reform proposals that have come down the pike in the last few years.

Rather than letting business interests, with their insatiable need for cheap, exploitable labor, dictate the flow of immigration through both legal and illegal channels, Gutierrez's bill creates a new antonymous regulatory agency within the executive branch solely charged with setting both policy and specific levels for all future employment-based immigration.

Perhaps it was the title of this new government agency, the "Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets" that threw Mr Archibold, of the NYT off and led him to believe that it was nothing more than "study group"…or maybe he just didn't do the necessary research, or perhaps he enjoys caring water for the likes of Flake…who knows.



(1) IN GENERAL.—There is established a permanent, independent, Federal agency within the Executive Branch of the United States to be known as the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets

(2) PURPOSES.—Through objective, thorough, accurate and nonpartisan review and analysis, the purposes of the Commission are to—
(A) establish employment-based immigration policies that promote America’s economic growth and competitiveness while minimizing job displacement, wage depression and unauthorized employment in the United States;
(B) create and implement a policy-focused research agenda on the economic impacts of immigration at the national, regional, state, industry and occupation levels;
(C) collect and analyze information about employment-based immigration and the labor market and share the data and analysis with lawmakers, researchers and the American public;
(D) recommend to the Congress and the President on a regular basis an evidence-based methodology for determining the level of employment-based immigration; and
(E) recommend to Congress and the President the numeric levels and characteristics of workers to be admitted in various employment based visa categories.

So, the "Commission" not only sets up policy guidelines, and collects and analyzes data, it determines the exact number to be issued and make-up of the various employment-based visa categories. But I guess that doesn’t constitute, "addressing future labor demands, or controlling immigration flow" in the minds of those who can't see beyond the bottom lines of their patrons balance sheets…. And the need for disposable cheap workers to maintain them.

The Commission shall be composed of 7 voting members

* who shall be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate
* who shall serve for 5-year staggered terms;
* one of whom the President shall appoint as Chair of the commission to serve a 6-year term, which can be extended for 1 additional 3-year term;
* who shall have expertise in economics, demography, sociology, labor, business, civil rights, immigration or other pertinent qualifications or experience; and
* not more than 4 of whom may be members of the same political party;

I guess they believe that an independent, bi-partisan panel of experts, with actual knowledge of things like economics and demography couldn't possibly do a better job than a bunch of politicians and lobbyists at figuring out what the best level of future employment-based immigration should be. And they would like to see the great success we've had with health care reform efforts led by bought-and-paid-for politicians and their lobbyist puppet masters replicated in immigration reform as well.

While this new extension of the executive branch is far from a perfect solution to the problem of how best to address and regulate future immigration flow, and can still have its recommendations voted down by a hostile congress, it's far superior to the ridiculous notion that exploiting guest workers is somehow a method of immigration regulation or that guest worker programs are somehow responsive to both the economic and social needs of both the American people and those who to wish to come here and make a better life….so let the whining begin. …we couldn't stop them if we tried anyway.

And I'm sure it won’t be long before the champion of human-rights and justice, Chuck Schummer, comes up with some kind of Frankenstein monster of a compromise bill with his republican buddies that will re-introduce the much beloved guest worker paradigm into the equation.

But until then, at least Gutierrez has given us a reasonable and workable alternative. …and a glimpse at some of the creative thinking that will be necessary to finally address immigration reform in a meaningful way.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Immigration Reform is a Crucial Part of the Movement for Change

Yesterday, thousands of immigration reform advocates converged on Washington to demand that Congress and the Administration live up to their promises to take up reform, and repair our broken immigration system. And while news of this gathering of pro-reform advocates was overshadowed by the events surrounding the health care debate, it should be remembered that both of these causes are part and parcel of the greater struggle for change that brought so many together last November in the hope of setting a new agenda for the 21st century.

Despite what some claim, support for some sort of progressive immigration reform is not tantamount to calling for "open borders" , “unrestricted immigration" or as Lou Dobbs likes to claim, "importing half the population of Mexico into the US."

And while credible arguments have been made from both the left, and Libertarian right, that favor open borders and the total unrestricted flow of people, goods, and services between nations, most pro-reform advocates don't take this position.

Instead, we see our current "immigration problem" as a failure of our system to live up to its historical duty to allow for the reasonable flow of people from all over the world to come to this nation to make a better life, add vitality and diversity to our national mosaic, and join in the great American democratic experiment.

Our current immigration system is the result of laws and codes that have been cobbled together over the last fifty years. The current Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was originally written in 1952 and has been amended and rewritten numerous times over the proceeding years. With each change, various bits and pieces were added and others removed. This has left a Byzantine system of disjointed codes and regulations that are not only unresponsive to current immigration needs, but nearly impossible to navigate or enforce. Into this vacuum left by a web of disjointed and sometimes contradictory regulations, layers of further restrictions and punitive measures have been added over time in attempts to somehow make this unworkable system work.

Clearly, a system that allows for only 5000 unskilled workers to enter the country legally, out of a total of over one million new admissions a year, is out of touch with current immigration needs. Certainly any system that has wait times of up to twenty years to allow family members to join relatives legally present in the country is not living up to the spirit of its intent.

But after years of toxic and divisive debate, are the American people ready for a real and practical discussion of this issue? Or will they get bogged down, as in the past, in meaningless sloganeering and petty tribalism and xenophobia?

The answer depends not as much on the actions of the anti-immigrant right, who will inevitably try to turn all the collective fears and insecurities of the American public towards the immigrant population, but rather on the actions of those looking for truly rational, fair, and practical reform.

As we saw in the debate over health-care reform, the lack of meaningful immigration reform in the past has left a door open for opponents of any progressive agenda to use immigration issues in attempts to stall and block much needed change.

Those looking for meaningful immigration reform must see this as a new opportunity to now reinvigorate the debate. Immigration reform must become just one element of a comprehensive plan to revitalize a new 21st century America ... just one component of an aggressive plan to address not only the nation's economic health, but its future direction.

For us to accomplish true reform, we must acknowledge that current economic conditions put this issue in a precarious position and that increased blowback from the right is inevitable. But we must also remember that despite all the divisive rhetoric we heard during this past election cycle, or during the health care debate, the majority of the public rejected the calls to tribalism, dog-whistle appeals to racism, and simplistic slogans. They want meaningful and practical change, and are willing to listen, learn, and work towards that change.

If we are to be part of that change, and make immigration reform part of a new agenda for the 21st century, we will need to take the lead, and make the American people understand that fair, practical, and humane immigration reform is a crucial component of any real and meaningful change for the future.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You can't have it both ways, CNN

To let CNN know they can no longer hypocritically distance themselves from Dobbs' anti-Latino and anti-immigrant hatred with appeals to Latino viewers, join the BastaDobbs campaign today and let your voice join the 50,000 others, who've in the last four weeks, told CNN "Enough!!!"


Monday, October 12, 2009

Gutierrez to release his principles for new immigration reform bill … we've got a few of our own.

On Tuesday Oct 13th, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus led by Rep. Luis Gutierrez(Il-D), will be joined in Washington by 2,500 representatives of labor, immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups, and faith-based communities from across the country to unveil what is being touted as a list fundamental principles behind a new progressive, comprehensive immigration bill to be introduced before the end of the month.

"I am overwhelmed by the support of immigrant, faith-based and community-based organizations in urging me to introduce comprehensive immigration legislation. I look forward to joining them on Tuesday so that I can share with them more specifically the key principles that will form the basis of such a bill," said Rep. Gutierrez.

"We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it," continued Rep. Gutierrez. "Saying immigration is a priority for this Administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action, and the longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation we debate will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform."

"We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you; but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship. We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our workforce by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows."

"I believe the support base for this kind of compassionate and comprehensive legislation is strong and far reaching, and I believe the votes are there to pass it. I have always said that immigration reform will not be easy; but it is time we had a workable plan working its way through Congress that recognizes the vast contributions of immigrants to this country and that honors the American Dream."

We have yet to see Rep Gutierrez's recommendations, but after years of controversy and partisan fighting, we are still no closer to any meaningful new national immigration policy than we were over eight years ago when President Bush first claimed he would make it a top priority upon taking office. Much of the blame for this situation clearly rests on the shoulders of the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party, who chose political expediency and a divisive brand of slash and burn political theater over the responsible execution of their duties.

But, there have also been divisions within the Democratic Party that have helped stall the effort. While generally stating support for some sort of "comprehensive reform," there has been little consensus on exactly what that reform should entail.

We’ve seen numerous compromise bills, intended to find a “sweet spot” that would appease all parties, go down in flames after concessions were made to restrictionists to accept their far-right policies as a prerequisite to even bringing the issue to the table, only later to find that no matter how many concessions were made, or how restrictive or punitive the legislation ...they were never satisfied.

In the absence of meaningful reform, undocumented immigrants still daily traverse the borders risking their lives, and sometimes losing them, in order to find work and security in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have been incarcerated in order to line the pockets of a growing private prison system rife with abuse and neglect, or to appease the shrill voices of those who look to draconian enforcement as the sole means of regulating the flow of migration.

Billions of dollars more have been squandered in a time of economic instability on failed attempts to seal the borders with walls and technology purchased from the same companies that willingly emptied our national coffers for the last eight years in the “war on terror” both here and abroad. … all because of our reliance on the failed “enforcement only” policies of the past.

Additionally, the divisive and racially charged rhetoric surrounding the debate has fostered a growing culture of hate that has led to increased violence aimed at immigrant and ethnic communities.

Given this situation, the need to address immigration reform is pressing.

But in order for any reform legislation to be effective, and more importantly, be a permanent solution that will stand the test of time, we must end the failed policies of the past that rely solely on enforcement and deterrence. Instead we should work towards a flexible immigration system that can be responsive to all the push and pull factors that drive migration globally.

A properly formulated and functioning immigration system should not only address the labor and economic needs of the US, but also the forces in sender nations that drive migration globally, whether they be economic, political, social, or humanitarian in nature. It should protect all workers, both native-born and immigrant from exploitation, and end policies that foster an underground economy that makes "criminals" out of millions of hard working people both native and foreign born.

Unlike the past, we should judge future legislation and policy not by how successful it will be at apprehending, deporting, or incarcerating migrants ... but rather on how little apprehension, deportation and incarceration would be necessary.

With that said, what follows are twenty-five principles that should be included in any truly progressive immigration reform legislation …


  1. End policies that rely only on enforcement and deterrence as the sole means of regulating migration.

  2. Address the root causes of immigration, and change US policy so that it doesn't foster and produce conditions that force hundreds of thousands of people each year to leave their countries of origin in order to simply survive.

  3. Tie all current and future trade, military, and foreign aid agreements to not only worker protections both here and abroad, but also to their ability to foster economic progress and social justice for the working class and poor in sender nations.

  4. Formulate a reasonable, humane, fair and practical method for determining the levels of immigration going forward. Establish an independent commission free from the pressures of political expediency and business interests to review all the pertinent data and set admission numbers based on labor, economic, social, and humanitarian needs.

  5. Provide a path to legalization for all current undocumented immigrants living and working in the US, free of restrictions based on country of origin, economic status, education, length of residency, or any other “merit based” criteria.

  6. Secure the borders by first ensuring that the vast majority of new immigrants have the ability and opportunity to legally enter the country through legal ports of entry by increasing the availability and equitable distribution of green cards. This would curtail the flow of migration through illegal channels. Only after that, should enforcement begin to ensure compliance, or any work to physically secure the border take place.

  7. Increase the focus on enforcement of all labor and employment laws. Increase penalties on employers who engage in unfair or illegal labor practices. Increase funding for government oversight and inspection.

  8. Opposition to a "temporary guest worker" program as the primary vehicle for employment based legal entry on the grounds that it provides no benefit to the American people or the immigrants themselves. It only provides big business with a disposable work force, and prevents immigrants from becoming a viable force in the workplace or full fledged members of society.

  9. Foster an immigration policy that strengthens the middle and working class through encouraging unionization, increased naturalization, and immigrant participation in the electoral process.

  10. Include the language of the DREAM Act that would allow children and young adults brought here as children, and raised in the US, a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education or community service. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. At the end of the long process, the young person can have the chance to become an American citizen or legal residency by completing their educations and contributing to society.

  11. Included the language of the Uniting American Families Act that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain permanent residency.

  12. Include the language of the AgJobs bill that seeks to relieve chronic farm labor shortages by supplying undocumented migrant agricultural workers a legal opportunity to enter the county and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship. It also bolsters labor rights and protects workers from exploitation.

  13. Repeal the sections of the 1996 law that redefined vast numbers of crimes as deportable offense when committed by immigrants. Imposing harsh penalties--often permanent exile--on immigrants for minor criminal convictions like shoplifting or possession of marijuana.

  14. End permanent detention of all migrants for immigration violations not related to violent crimes.

  15. Simplify the immigration system by eliminating and condensing the hundreds of various visa classes into a smaller, more manageable, classification system that allows for not only easier navigation of the system, but better analysis of current immigration needs.

  16. End policies and programs that rely upon state and local law enforcement agencies to usurp the role of the federal government and engage in the enforcement of federal immigrations codes.

  17. Bring U.S. immigration law in line with international human rights law by reforming asylum and refugee law and strengthening protections for children, crime victims, and victims of human trafficking

  18. Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.

  19. Make family reunification simpler by expanding the “immediate family” classification to reflect the cultural realities of many non-western or traditional societies from which immigrants come.

  20. Allow immigration judges the discretion to treat cases on an individual basis and make decisions based on the specific the circumstances and outcomes of the case.

  21. Make punishments of immigration crimes commensurate with comparable crimes in other areas of the law. A misdemeanor or civil violation of immigration law should not carry with it a punishment that would be comparable to a felony in a criminal case.

  22. End, or raise, the per-country cap that favors smaller nations with fewer immigrant applicants over larger developing nations and those countries that have long traditional ties to the US.

  23. Update the Registry Date in Sec 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to reflect the historical pattern of periodic updating. Current date should be updated to 1996.

  24. Eliminate 'crimes involving moral turpitude,' an amorphous legal holdover from Jim Crow

  25. Recognize that immigration is a vital part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant America. It is what has set this nation apart from all others since its inception. To close our borders to new immigrants is to cut off the lifeblood that has always made this nation grow and prosper.

Any legislation that claims to be truly progressive, pro-migrant, and in the best interests of both immigrant communities and the American people, should incorporate these principles to be not only effective long term, but practical, and most importantly humane.